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Friday - November 01, 2013 - Amateur Radio at the Beach - Amelia Island - KH2D.net
DXCC 2000 - An Accomplishment??

The DXCC Certificate

An Amateur Radio Accomplishment?

Written in the fall of 2000. But still applies today....

Hams on the HF bands have always been interested in DX. 'DX' means 'far away'. Back in the 'old days' (a long time ago), it was a magic trick to communicate by radio across the United States. Back then, hams built most, if not all, of their own equipment. So not only did they have to be capable of 'working' DX, but they had to be capable of constructing a receiver and an antenna with which they could HEAR the DX. Hence the phrase "You can't work 'em if you can't hear 'em" was coined. I would also guess, back in the 'old days', that there weren't a lot of ham radio operators in every country in the world, so 'working' DX was harder because there wasn't as much of it.

Whenever I think about the 'old days' and ham radio, I picture a DX'er sitting in front of his radio in the middle of the night, headset covering his ears, one hand on the desk close to the key, slowly tuning up and down the bands while carefully listening for that ever so weak signal from a distant land. I guess back then, it was a true measure of electronics knowledge and operating skills to make contacts with one hundred countries around the world, so the DX Century Club was born….

The DX Century Club is a certificate program run by a radio club called the American Radio Relay League. The basic award is available for proving (with QSL cards) that you have made contact with one hundred stations in different countries across the globe (entities now, used to be countries). The certificate itself isn't very pretty, not a major wall hanging by any stretch of the imagination, and the stamps that are available for purchase designating the number of countries that the certificate holder has 'confirmed' are even worse, resembling Cracker Jack Box prizes from the 50's. But for some strange reason, DXCC is still one of the major driving forces in amateur radio today.

Seems to me, back when I started in ham radio, that certificates and awards were byproducts of our hobby. Lots of hams were 'working' on their DXCC, their WAS, their WAZ, whatever - they talked to people they met on the air, and when they exchanged QSL cards, they filed the cards in the standard ham radio QSL card holder , a shoe box. One day when the bands were dead, and nothing needed fixing, the shoebox got dumped on the desk or the floor, and the cards got counted. Mental notes were made, like 'need Utah to finish Worked All States' and the country counts were tallied. Somewhere along the line, some hams sent the cards to the radio club for confirmation of their country count, and the certificate was received. Others put them back in the shoe box, with the intention of doing it 'later', some other day.

What I enjoyed most about ham radio (before I got to be DX) was twofold. The 'magic' of wireless communications fascinated me - with a roll of wire, a ball of string, a bow and arrow, a fishing rod, a few pine trees, and a Sunday afternoon, I could construct an antenna that would direct my signal to the desired location in the world to which I wanted to communicate. And once the wires were flying in the pine trees, I could sit up all night and talk to other people in places I had never been.

Made it very hard to be at work on time some mornings, but I learned a lot about the world from people I talked to with my wires. I even made a few new 'friends' in places I had never been, other hams I would talk with on a regular basis. I exchanged QSL cards with some of the other hams I talked to on the air, and my shoebox gradually started to fill. But I was always one of those guys who was 'working' on awards and actually getting them was something I intended to do 'later'. Later never came - I moved to the other side of the globe, the shoebox with twelve years worth of QSL cards got lost in the shuffle.

Fortunately a few of the important QSL cards got packed in another box that didn't get lost. But the ones that were important to me weren't the ones for my DXCC. They were the ones from WA4RRR, Alice, the lady with whom I had made my first contact after being licensed, and from JA1ELY, my first contact with a ham in a far away land who realized how excited I was when I talked to him, so he not only replied to my request for a QSL card, but he covered the envelope with beautiful stamps from Japan, realizing that I had probably never seen a Japanese stamp.....

Anyway, that all happened years ago, not back in the really 'old days', but a while back. Today, things aren't the same, at least not when it comes to HF and DX. Technology has changed dramatically since I made my contacts on the HF bands with WA4RRR and JA1ELY. The DXCC certificate is still around, but when I stop and think about it, I honestly have to ask myself why, and at times I have to ponder how different ham radio might be today if not for the DXCC award.

Today, with the Internet, we live in a world of instant communications. Email reaches the other side of the world in milliseconds. Throw together a web page (like this one) and it's instantly visible to anyone anywhere on the globe who wants to view it. And radio technology has changed quite a bit too. Remember I mentioned how 'magical' it was to work a hundred countries back in the 'old days' ? Well, it's not very magical today, because global communications on the HF bands with a standard off-the-shelf ham transceiver and a very simple wire antenna are ever so commonplace.

So I decided to do an experiment to see what an accomplishment working a hundred countries today would be. On April 1st, I hooked up a new HF radio in my shack, a Kachina 505 DSP. Off I went to see how long it would take and how hard it would be to work a hundred countries on HF.

Here are the results. I finished working a hundred countries on April 30th. So you could say it took a month. If you actually examine my logs, you'll find that I only operated on twenty one days out of the month. So I did the required radio work for the basic DXCC certificate in three weeks. Now you might think that I have a big antenna, a kilowatt amplifier, and since I'm a 'DX' station I just got on the air and CQ'ed and let everybody call me. Wrong, on all counts.....

I have two antennas - an 80 meter inverted V, with the feedpoint up about 35 feet and the ends about 10 feet off the ground, and a five element 10 meter monobander up about 25 feet. I use the 80 meter dipole with a small tuner on all bands except ten meters. I have an amplifier, but it's broken, so the maximum power output I used for my three week DXCC was 100 watts. I did very little CQ'ing and when I did, I worked one or two stations and then QSY'ed.

OK, so what's the trick you might ask. You probably think I spent twenty one nights carefully tuning up and down the bands listening for that ever so weak signal from distant lands and that I was late for work every day for three weeks. Not hardly. I was never late for work because I don't (work) and I spent absolutely ZERO time tuning around the bands listening for anybody. Since the radio is controlled by the computer, and since I have the computer turned on all the time anyway, I simply connected to the local DX cluster node. I just sat here doing what I always do, reading my email, working on web pages, and since it was April, working on my tax return. When the computer went BeepBoop because somebody had spotted something on the DX cluster that my software told me I needed for a 'new one', I just clicked the spot with my mouse, which QSY'd the radio to the frequency where the DX was, worked the DX, got my 5NN TU, clicked another button to log it, and went back to what I was doing. Aren't computers wonderful ?

If the pileup was too big, or the DX was too weak when I clicked a spot, I just said the heck with it and went back to what I was doing and waited for some other DX to make the computer go BeepBoop.

When I finally logged number 100, I asked myself a few questions:

Was it a challenge? Not hardly.

Do I feel it was a major accomplishment in my ham career ? No.

Would I be proud to buy a piece of paper from a radio club to put on my wall to prove to the world I had done it ? I don't think so.

Did my testosterone level go up? I don't know because I forgot to go to the doctor and have it measured before I started the experiment, but it doesn't feel like my jockey shorts are any tighter than they were 30 days ago.

Three weeks, one hundred countries.

If you look at my total operating time, it would probably be three hours, if that. If you look at my log, you will find that 99% of the contacts I made have no entry in the NAME field, and most of the signal reports are 599. So I didn't make any new friends during my efforts to attain ham radio's highest honor, and I didn't learn anything about places in the world where I have never been.

I will admit, I did 'cheat' a little. All of my contacts were made using CW, no SSB contacts at all. Why is using CW 'cheating' ? If you can't answer that question, you'll probably be in the dark forever, and I've used up all my batteries giving free flashlights to hams that came along before you did, so don't bother to ask.

Matter of fact, this is my second attempt at Low Power Lousy Antenna DXCC in the last six months. First time, I sold my tower, unhooked my broken amplifier, and decided to see how many countries I could work with a hundred watts and only my 80 meter dipole as an all band antenna. That count got to 134 when I got bored with it, think it took about three months, but I wasn't looking at a time limit when I started….

So what do I think about the ARRL's DXCC Award, based on my own experiments, in the year 2000 ? I think it's a joke. Basically because working 100 countries today on the HF bands is extremely easy, requires no special equipment, very little effort, and is something that the average ham, if so inclined, could accomplish in a very short time frame. Definitely nowhere near an accomplishment worth framing.

DXCC is simply not the same as it was back in the 'old days'. It's time for the radio club to think of something that is new and exciting that applies to world we live in TODAY that they can lose money on.

The other reason I feel that the year 2000 would be a good time to put DXCC in the crapper is because somewhere I read that amateur radio is supposed to promote 'international goodwill'.

Listen to any pileup on the HF bands that was generated by people all over the world clicking the same spot on the cluster at the same time and see how much international goodwill you hear being exchanged. The more 'rare' the DX is, the more he is valued as a click for DXCC, is inversely proportional to how much international good will you will hear being exchanged.

Many hams in today's busy world don't bother to tune around and find someone to talk to because when they do find somebody, they quickly remember that they don't know how to talk. A lot of today's hams, I think, aren't capable of communicating. Many of them couldn't carry on an interesting conversation on the radio and make it last ten minutes if their license depended on it. Get past the signal report and the 'my rig is' part of a QSO and they are lost. So what do they do ? DXCC, what else. Click a spot, scream for an hour, log it, and on to the next click.

I feel really sorry for a lot of DX'ers today, because they have been mislead into thinking that this DXCC stuff is THE most important aspect of amateur radio. Why do I feel sorry for them ?

They think DXCC stickers prove their operating skills. I think it only proves they lack communications skills, and that they are willing to scream for hours to work a new one, because that's the only kind of 'operating' they are capable of doing.

They think other hams are impressed by their DXCC achievements. How many hams have ever come to visit YOUR shack and asked to see the shoebox ? When's the last time one of your DX'ing buddies ask you how many entities you have confirmed ?

They think that when the DXCC yearbook comes out, somebody else is going to see their totals. Ever seen a contest listing in QST ? Do you really think that ANYBODY looks thru five pages of little teeny tiny callsigns to see what OTHER peoples scores were ? Get outta town, Charlie Brown - they all look at THEIR OWN score and not much else. Just like they do with the DXCC yearbook.... Ever hear a DX'er complaining about SOMEBODY ELSE's numbers being wrong in the yearbook ?

And I think the fact that so many hams have been brainwashed into thinking they MUST prove something by participating in the DXCC program has promoted a lot of international bad will. What would the ham bands be like without the DXCC program ? I'm not sure, but I can imagine:

No more people angry because they missed this or that.

No more on the air fighting when HM0DX shows up.

No more people QRMing DX nets and every DXpedition that shows up.

No more DX nets.

No more rumors about JA whoever losing his license and going to jail.

No more rumors about calling people on the phone for P5.

No more morons who think a box full of postcards verifies their manhood.

No more Europeans upset because the DX is working JA.

No more JA's upset because the DX is working North America.

No more W's upset because the DX is working Europe.

A lot less fighting, cussing and fussing on the air and on the cluster, and on the email lists.

No more fights about what is and what isn't an 'entity'.

QSO's that actually last longer than FIFTY NINE QRZ.

People would actually be TALKING to each other on the radio, and maybe some of these hard core DXCC guys could listen and learn what a real conversation sounds like. Who knows, DX'ers might even learn to actually communicate.

If the ARRL is moving ham radio into the new millennium - it's time for them to get rid of the DXCC program I think. If I can qualify in three weeks, with a hundred watts and a wire, then the ARRL should give a DXCC certificate to anybody that pays their dues, or have their advertisers put them in the box with a new radio.

DXCC is a JOKE. Not even a funny joke. A pathetic joke, at best.

I saw the perfect idea for the New DXCC the other day. Here's how the program should work. When an amateur radio operator decides he wants to participate in DXCC, the first thing he should have to do is send some money to the radio club, and they would send him an Official DXCC Kit. The kit would include a list of all the current DXCC entities, the price list for having cards checked, the rules and regulations, and a large DXCC jar which contains one marble for each entity on the current list.

The DXCC applicant would be required keep the DXCC jar at his operating position, and to remove one marble from the jar and throw it in the trash each time he works a 'new' entity from the list. When the jar becomes totally empty, the applicant would send his QSL cards in the DXCC jar (and more money) to the radio club, who would then certify him as having no marbles left at all, and place his call on the Most Honorable DXCC Roll.

Now that I think about it, the ARRL may have this program in effect now. Judging from what I hear on the radio when I listen to pileups, some of these guys screaming for a new one are definitely missing some marbles, and some of them sound like all their marbles are gone already ….

The player who has lost all his marbles first wins ? Why not….

I did another experiment a few days ago too. I had thirty minutes that I could spend playing with the radio. So I found a band that was open, a frequency that was not being used, and I called CQ. For fifteen minutes. With an eight second pause between CQ's. Nobody called me. At the end of the first fifteen minutes, I spotted myself on the DX cluster. In the second fifteen minutes of my half hour, I worked twenty six stations from the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Which proves another one of my theories. Nobody tunes around listening for DX anymore, they simply sit like a lump in front of the CRT until the DX pops up on the cluster so they can click it. Which in turn gives me another idea…. I think an appropriate name for the New DXCC Award would be:

Dick Can Click And Has Lost All His Marbles Century Club

(Cracker Jack, eat your heart out!)

Don't dally and let someone else beat your tally, send for your DXCC jar today !!

Be the FIRST DX'er in your DX Club to

And don't forget: Real DX'ers QSL DIRECT !!

Send me dolla
Send me dolla
Make me sit here
Scream and holla
Que R Zee
Que R Zee
Anybody copy me ?


Friday - November 01, 2013 - Amateur Radio at the Beach - Amelia Island - KH2D.net
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